Tag Archives: botanical garden

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Welcomes Three New Board Members in 2021

Three new members have joined the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Board of Directors. The Garden welcomes George Leis, Sharon Bradford, and Helene Schneider. The Board supports the Garden’s mission to conserve California native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and the planet.

“We are pleased to to have such highly esteemed community members join us in the commitment to preserve biodiversity,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, the Garden’s Executive Director. “Each individual moves our mission forward through unique perspectives, extensive expertise, and a dedication to our increasingly urgent conservation work.”

George Leis is the President & Chief Operating Officer for Montecito Bank & Trust, the oldest and largest locally owned community bank in the Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. George was formerly a managing director for MUFG Union Bank, N.A. He was named the national sales manager for The Private Bank after becoming regional president of Union Bank’s Central Coast region with the acquisition of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust (SBB&T) in December 2012. Previously, Leis was president and chief executive officer of Pacific Capital Bancorp (PCBC), a $7 billion in assets community bank holding company that included SBB&T. 

George Leis

After joining SBB&T in March 2006, Leis was the executive vice president for two divisions, Wealth Management and Information Technology, and was the chief information officer. He was responsible for 500 staff members and a $78 million budget. A graduate of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), he is a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. 

Leis’ community involvement is exemplified through his service to universities and charities throughout Southern California and beyond, including serving as the Board chair to both the Santa Barbara Zoo and the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, and as a Board member for Channel Islands YMCA, CSU Channel Islands Foundation, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and more.

His successful career and passionate involvement in community-focused organizations have earned Leis several awards. A distinguished alumnus of Cal State Northridge, Leis is a prior Board member and prior committee chair for the CSUN Foundation Board of Directors. He has participated on numerous other CSUN Boards, including the College of Business and Economics advisory Board and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Ambassadors.

Sharon Bradford is passionate about her community and has had the opportunity to serve on many boards in her beloved town of Santa Barbara.

Some of these include the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Lobero Theatre, Direct Relief International, Casa del Herrero, and The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Bradford and her brothers are the owners of San Marcos Growers; a wholesale nursery started by their family in 1980 which grows many native and drought tolerant plants appropriate to California’s mediterranean climate. 

Bradford is a graduate of UCSB with a degree in Art History, and after living in the Bay Area for thirty years, Sharon and her husband David are thrilled to be “home”.

Helene Schneider serves as the Regional Development Director for California State University, Channel Islands, expanding awareness and support of CSUCI in Santa Barbara County, and as a Regional Coordinator for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, focusing on reducing homelessness in communities throughout California and Arizona. Schneider also served for over 17 years in municipal government, as mayor, city councilmember, and housing authority commissioner for the City of Santa Barbara, California.

Schneider currently volunteers on the non-profit boards for Sister Cities International and the Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative. She earned her B.A. degree from Skidmore College and her Professional Designation in Human Resources Management from UCLA Extension.

See more about the Garden’s Board of Trustees by visiting their website at sbbg.org/about/board-of-trustees. To learn more about how to support the Garden, visit sbbg.org/get-involved.

The Garden serves the public as more than just a pretty place, but as a model of sustainability and an engine for native habitat conservation in the region. Our mission has become increasingly urgent as more native plant species face extinction, threatening the foundation of all life on the planet. Founded in 1926, the Garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and Nursery. The Garden welcomes the public every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. For more information about the Garden, please visit sbbg.org.   

Save the Planet With Native Plants

How you can protect and restore mother earth all year round

Over 50 years ago, an oil rig experienced a pressure blowout in the Santa Barbara Channel resulting in up to 3 million gallons of crude oil ripping through the ocean floor — the worst oil spill in the nation’s history up to that point. It took years for Santa Barbara’s ecosystem to recover, but the Earth Day movement took root. Despite our collective efforts that were started on that first Earth Day, globally we are still in the throes of the sixth major mass extinction in planetary history and the first time this has been caused by humans. Today, our global biodiversity is collapsing, resulting in an accelerated rate of species extinction. 

Earth Day, a time to demonstrate support for environmental protection, is an opportunity to bring awareness to the healing power of native plants. The mission of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is to conserve and protect native plants and habitats for the health and well being of people and the planet. That mission has become increasingly urgent as more native plant species face extinction, threatening the foundation of all life on the planet.

Saving plants means saving the planet. 

In honor of Earth Day, the Garden invites the community to restore the earth by  celebrating these critical native plants.

1) Spending time in nature is something we can all do to reconnect with mother earth, and it doesn’t go without healing benefits. Nature can help reduce anxiety, promote creativity and contribute to heart health. Research shows rewards begin accruing with as little as 2 hours a week.

“The Garden provides the community with respite filled with redwood trees, wildflower meadows, and Channel Island views,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, Executive Director of the Garden. “It’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the connection between our own health and the health of the planet.”

2) The Garden welcomes the community to take a stroll through our native plant displays on Earth Day to observe the unique beauty of California flora and learn more about what simple seeds of change you can implement that make a huge impact on our environment. Discover our chalkboard signs along the trails with tips on what you can do to protect biodiversity or join our Instagram livestream from 11am – 12:30pm for a Garden stroll with our Director of Education and Engagement.

3) Participate in Earth Day virtually by registering to join in Chumash Earth Day on April 20 at 1pm, hosted by the Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office. Windhager will be giving a presentation on how you can heal the earth starting in your own home and neighborhood by planting native plants.

4) Learn more about where climate leaders are stepping up to do the critical work needed to combat the climate crisis by joining in the Community Environmental Council’s 3-Day Virtual Earth Day Festival. The Garden’s Director of Education and Engagement, Scot Pipkin, will be a co-emcee on April 24 from 12pm – 3pm and will share how native plants can be used to lean into climate action at this urgent moment.

5) At the Garden, be sure to visit our nursery, which offers the widest selection of native plants on the central coast. Staffed with knowledgeable and experienced gardeners, there’s no better place to learn more about native plants, find the right selection for your garden, create wildlife habitat, or purchase a plant for a friend.

Protect and restore the earth this year through native plants. Native plants enhance the environment instead of threatening it, provide habitat for wildlife, and are a source of nectar for pollinators. Earth Day began in our own backyard, and can continue to grow there as well. 

 About the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The Garden serves the public as more than just a pretty place, but as a model for sustainability. Founded in 1926, the Garden is the first botanic garden focused exclusively on California native plants and currently spans 78 acres with five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and Nursery. The Garden welcomes the public every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and offers a members-only hour from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. For more information about the Garden, please visit sbbg.org.   

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Celebrates 95 Years

Santa Barbara’s historical gem invites you to celebrate its 95th birthday

On March 16, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden invites the community to help them celebrate 95 years of history. Pop-up exhibits will share stories, photos, local history, and milestones of the Garden over the decades. Visitors can discover the oldest plants in the Garden, some as old as the Garden itself, as well as other surprises along the way. Birthday twins of the Garden born on March 16th will be welcomed into the Garden free of admission with a valid ID. 

The Garden’s history has deep roots. Founded in 1926, the Garden was the first botanic garden in the United States to focus exclusively on native plants. In 1925, the Carnegie Institution suggested a cooperative effort with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to create a botanical garden. The plan became a reality when local philanthropist Anna Dorinda Blaksley Bliss purchased 13 acres in Mission Canyon for the museum, with views spanning from the mountains and the ocean. In 1939, the Botanic Garden separated from the Natural History Museum and was named the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. 

The garden was laid out in various plant communities, such as chaparral, desert, and prairie, with an emphasis on plants from the Pacific slope of North America. Experimental groupings of significant genera such as Ceanothus and Eriogonum (buckwheat) were displayed for horticultural research and to educate the public. By 1936, this emphasis had narrowed to plants native to the state of California, and now includes northwestern Baja California and southwestern Oregon, which are part of the California Floristic Province.

“Gardening with native plants is becoming more popular due to the desire to have an eco-friendly and low-maintenance garden,” said Dr. Steve Windhager, Executive Director. “Our founders were ahead of their time and recognized the important role that a garden dedicated to native plants could have in supporting an awareness and conservation of native habitat.” 

In honor of both the Garden’s birthday and Women’s History Month, Dr. Steve Windhager will share stories of the Garden’s “Founding Mothers” in collaboration with Casa Dorinda on March 16 at 2:00 p.m. Join in by visiting our “At Home” portal to be inspired by stories of Santa Barbara’s influential female leaders who have grown the Garden to what it is today. 

Those who aren’t able to join in the Garden’s socially-distant birthday celebration on March 16 can still enjoy pop-up exhibits throughout the week, and of course increasingly beautiful wildflowers throughout the Spring season. 

The Garden’s mission is to conserve California native plants and habitats for the health and well-being of people and the planet. The aim of the founders was to create a garden that would “…unite the aesthetic, educational and scientific.” The Garden currently spans 78 acres with five miles of hiking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library, and native plant Nursery. For more information about the Garden, please visit sbbg.org.     

A Garden of Delights

Bounded by the Pacific to the west and the Sierra Nevada to the east, California is home to over 6,500 native plants, many of which only exist here, that serve as the backbone to our state’s diverse and increasingly fragile ecosystems.

“If those species are lost in California, they are lost to the planet,” says Steve Windhager, the executive director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. 

For Windhager, the 78-acre Garden, with its over 1,000 species of native plants heralding from southern Oregon all the way to the tip of Baja including the southern-most redwood grove, is much “more than a pretty place.” It is the home base for a three-pronged conservation effort to “understand, protect, and restore” California’s rich flora. 

To do this, the Garden’s growing team of researchers, conservationists, and PhD-level botanists work throughout the state to actively document the diversity of plants across the California Floristic Province. To date, their scientific repository contains over 190,000 preserved plant and lichen collections dating as far back as 1860.

They are also protecting the future through widespread seed banking. “It’s an insurance policy for native plants,” Windhager says. “We put the seeds into suspended animation, to be defrosted for research or in a time of catastrophe.” 

And all the while, the Garden is working with large landholders, think the Department of Defense and the United States Forest Service, to better manage their lands, restore native species, and bring overall health to California’s rich but increasingly fragile ecosystems. 

Then, of course there is the Garden, a beautiful and beloved community asset set in Santa Barbara’s Mission Canyon, with sweeping views to both the Santa Ynez Mountains and out to the Channel Islands. Nearly 80,000 people visit each year to take in the seasonal splendor of quintessentially Californian nature scenes; a meadow lush with wildflowers in the Spring, a rushing stream and its riparian ecosystem springing to life with winter rains. The Garden is home to a rich tradition of public education, hosting numerous classes and lectures for adults each year, as well as one of the longest lasting school visiting programs, started in the 1950s, where Windhager says, youth “experience the importance of native plants as the cornerstone of all life on our planet.”

And the Garden is also the seat of serious scholarship. In 2019, its staff and affiliated researchers published a book, nine peer-reviewed articles, and six technical reports all while DNA coding plants, lichens, arthropods, mosses, and fungi growing on the Channel Islands. 

“The Garden itself is the gateway for most people,” Windhager says. “For some, visiting Mission Canyon and walking through the redwoods is enough. But others, they get hooked and they want to go deeper and learn more. These are our future conservationists.”

And with the near endless diversity of California’s flora, there is always more to learn and discover.

A Botanical Nirvana

In Montecito, a land of spectacular architecture and pristine gardens, there lies a property like no other: Lotusland. 

Set across 37 acres, this sprawling estate turned public garden boasts 3,500 plant species from across the globe, many dating back 140 years, with towering palms and cacti, brilliant water gardens, and some of the most endangered fauna in the world. Then layer in the life of its enigmatic creator, Madame Ganna Walska, and you have a landscape that is a living work of art. 

“Part of the magic of Lotusland is the size and the scale of these mature specimen plants,” says Executive Director Rebecca Anderson. “Lotusland is grand and historic. When you enter, you are transported to a magical world where fantasy, whimsey and horticultural genius create a botanical masterpiece.” 

In late 2020, USA Today readers voted Lotusland one of the top 10 botanical gardens in the country. 

This remarkable garden was made even more so by its founder, Madame Ganna Walska, an Opera singer of intermittent fame, married six times, who purchased the property in 1941. She originally named it Tibetland, in anticipation of the Tibetan monks who were to be invited to study on the estate. When that plan dissolved, she renamed the gardens Lotusland due to the presence and symbolism of this exceptional flowering plant. Before her death in 1984, Madame created her signature masterpiece; converting the swimming pool into a water garden, creating a sanctuary for more than 200 species of Cyads (among the rarest plants on Earth) and erecting 20 themed gardens and filling the estate will sculpture and treasured collections.

It wouldn’t be until 1993 that Walska’s dream of converting Lotusland into a public garden was realized. Given the estate’s location, in the heart of residential Montecito, it took nine years and 64 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meetings to approve the nonprofit garden for public visitation. With that approval came severe restrictions on visitation: today, just 15,000 guests may visit per year as well as 5,000 school children.

“We want to discredit the myth that we are exclusive by design,” Anderson says, “Despite its appearance, Lotusland is not affluent. We struggle every year to raise the funds necessary to preserve and share Ganna Walska’s vision.” 

Anderson points out that maintaining a 37-acre garden and property is a massive commitment that requires our community’s attention. “For the first 27 years of our operations, we appropriately put the Garden’s care and tending above all. Now, the 100 year old buildings and grounds have begun to show their age and need considerable investment.” 

Her charge is to ensure that the entire property is brought up to the level it deserves for the education and enjoyment of the next generation. Lotusland is more than a beautiful place – it is a porthole to history, an important link in global plant preservation, a center for learning and a refuge for unparalleled spiritual elevation. 

“People crave the respite and reset brought by immersing in nature,” Anderson says. “Lotusland is an oasis that is healing to body and soul. Its benefits are palpable and its important plant collections are unparalleled. Visit Lotusland and be transported by a botanical nirvana that is tranquil, verdant and lush.”